So – what is a root canal?
That is actually the name of the root structure inside the tooth. Like a tree, your teeth have roots – which are critical when the tooth is growing, but not *as* important when it is fully developed, since the tooth can also get what it needs from surrounding tissue, as well as the root itself.
Sometimes, the canals inside the root become infected – because of deep cavities, old fillings, trauma, genetics or just bad luck.
Signs of having a root infection include pain, cracking teeth, hot and cold sensitivity, tender gums or darkening tooth and gum colour.If left untreated, the condition will likely get worse, with the tooth eventually needing to be removed, or the infection could spread, affecting other teeth. A root canal treatment can avoid that – save your tooth, and return your mouth, chewing and sensitivity to normal.
All that happens is that the damaged area, and infection, is cleared out of each of the canals, and replaced with a non-reacting filler. Because the tooth no longer requires the canals in the roots for growing, and can get nutrients from the surrounding tissue, the natural tooth is fine -though weaker- afterwards.
It is a common procedure – millions of teeth are saved each year in North America through this treatment. With modern techniques, the actual procedure is no more painful or uncomfortable than getting a filling, though the area may be sore for a few days afterwards.
The length of time, cost and chance of complete success depend on the severity and overall area of infection. There is always a small chance the infection is not completely removed – bacteria are great at hiding – but your dentist can give you an idea of how severe the infection is and how much of a risk there is of needing a follow up treatment.
In short,- a root canal procedure removes the infection from inside and around your tooth, and allows you to keep your natural tooth — whereas without treatment, you are likely to lose at least that tooth.
Most often, your dentist will recommend a crown to go overtop the natural tooth, providing an extra layer of protection for your natural tooth, as it will be weaker than before the infection and treatment.